BookExpo America, held May 27–29, was once again a busy period for audiobook publishers, as the industry announced the best audiobooks of the year at its 20th annual Audie Awards Gala and conducted the 21st Audio Publishers Association Conference.

Mandela: An Audio History won the Audie award for audiobook of the year, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book took home the prize for distinguished achievement in production in the awards presentation, which was held May 28 in New York City.

The Graveyard Book, which was narrated by the author and a full cast for HarperAudio, also nabbed the awards for best children’s titles for ages 8–12 and best multivoiced performance, while Mandela—narrated by Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Joe Richman for HighBridge Audio—also won the award for best original work.

“It’s an amazing piece of work,” said Frank Randall, editor at HighBridge Audio, about Mandela, which originated as a five-part series from Radio Diaries, a nonprofit that works with people to chronicle their lives for public radio. “It’s fantastic to listen to: it’s moving, it’s great history, it’s great storytelling... It’s a real history told by real people, and I think that’s what makes it stand out as an audio[book].”

According to Joe Richman, founder and executive producer of Radio Diaries, the company is best known for telling stories of ordinary life and people, and Mandela was something of a departure from the work it usually does. “The project started out as a biography of Mandela, and as we went along it became more and more a story of that chapter of history,” Richman said. “There’s such an incredible narrative to the whole story.”

This year’s Audies gala was hosted at the New York Academy of Medicine by bestselling author Jack Gantos. Other winners included Bahni Turpin, who won the award for best solo narration for a female reader, for her rendition of Laila Ibrahim’s Yellow Crocus (Brilliance Audio), and Bronson Pinchot, who won for best solo narration for a male reader, for his performance of Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw (HarperAudio). A special achievement award was presented posthumously to acclaimed actor and narrator Edward Herrmann.

Earlier in the week, some of the biggest names in the audio business took part in the APA’s annual conference, which kicked off May 27 at New York’s Javits Center.

“Technology has changed our industry a lot—recording at home, more recordings happening, business models changing—so it’s really all about being prepared for what those changes mean,” said APA executive director Michele Cobb about this year’s programming. A keynote address, titled “Nailing Loyalty in the Era of the Mobile, Social & ADHD

Customer,” from entrepreneur and marketing guru Peter Shankman, and a panel on securing coverage by building relationships with reviewers were just the start of a jam-packed day dedicated to all things audio. Steve Smith, publisher at Oasis Audio, praised Shankman’s keynote: “We have to focus on what our customers want, and that’s one of the things I want to learn more about at this conference—and [Shankman] addressed that right away.”

In addition to the various panels, APAC is perhaps the audio industry’s biggest networking opportunity. “[Networking] is a major reason for me to come to this show,” said Anthony Goff, v-p and publisher at Hachette Audio. He said he likes to “see people, reconnect with people, and hear some of the latest things people are trying to do to keep the growth alive and, well, and really just celebrate audio for a couple of hours.”